The shoppers at the front of the line had arrived by 6:30 a.m. to guarantee the first shot at deals and giveaways when the Belk at Juban Crossing held its grand opening Oct. 15.

When the doors were thrown open, a flood of hundreds streamed in, accepting freebies and fanning out to peruse shoes and clothing to the tunes of a jazz quartet.

“We’re ready to make people pretty!” a voice rang out from the cosmetics department where patrons stepped up for makeovers.

Belk is the first of more than a dozen Juban Crossing stores slated to host grand openings by Black Friday.

“It’s definitely not going to take the place of (the Mall of Louisiana), but it will help,” customer Sharon Madere said.

“We’re excited about all of these stores.”

Juban Crossing has been in the works for nearly a decade, prompting some to wonder if the promised retailers would ever come. The site is still a hotbed of construction and will remain so for several more years as new stores come online in phases. But shoppers Oct. 15 were impressed by what they’ve seen so far.

“We’re all so happy. We’re so glad this is finally happening,” said Georgia Jarreau, who lives nearby.

The grand opening crowd included several elected officials, including Denham Springs Mayor Jimmy Durbin who pointed out his own outfit — purchased entirely in Baton Rouge.

“We here in Livingston grew up shopping in Baton Rouge, but we wanted our own places to shop in Livingston Parish,” he said.

The mayor visited Belk for some shopping during its soft opening a few days before the grand opening.

“I was as happy as I could be,” he said. “It felt great.”